PARIS — If you were driving the back roads of Bourbon County on Wednesday, you might have thought you'd passed through a time warp and landed in 1900.
For there, rolling down the road, was a real live horse- and mule-drawn wagon train, packing grown-ups, kids, and dogs, out for a leisurely tour of the country, the way it was done a century ago: hoofs clopping, harnesses jingling, people smiling.
About 30 members of the Community Draft Horse and Mule Association were bound for a club gathering in Fleming County this weekend.
Association president Homer Rader was out in front, driving his smartly matched gray horses Pete and Re-Pete, leading the wagons at a speedy 3 mph.
He and his friends figure to reach the Fleming County rendezvous sometime Friday afternoon.
Of course, you could fly to New Zealand in less time. But for these folks, getting there fast isn't the point.
"It's not about speed; it's about seeing the country, being together and enjoying the horses," Rader said Wednesday. "You know, we live in a world today where we're running all the time. But if you get out here with these horses and wagons, you see a whole lot of things differently."
The Community Draft Horse and Mule Association has about 50 members scattered around Central Kentucky. They're mostly country folks who share a love of horses (and mules), and a conviction that riding in a wagon pulled by a well-turned-out team is the only truly relaxing way to travel.
Club members congregated Wednesday morning at Columbiana Farm outside Paris, and they spent some time visiting and trading stories before hitching up and hitting the road. Nine wagons made the trip, plus Bev Merrill of Covington, who went along as an outrider on Dakota, a borrowed mare.
Association members get together for wagon train trips regularly during the summer months. Most are short runs. But sometimes they take longer ones, such as the three-day trip to Fleming County. They camp out along the way.
Mostly, they follow back roads, go slowly and enjoy the scenery.
Traffic sometimes becomes a problem if motorists are in a hurry. But association members said they can always recognize horse lovers, who will stop to let the wagons pass.
Philip Hester of Robertson County said he likes to see kids, because they always run out to the roadside to wave and watch the wagons go by.
Hester was driving a true piece of history Wednesday: a genuine physician's buggy, built about 1900, pulled by Pepper, his 11-year-old mare.
Most other members, however, drove modern wagons with rubber tires and real brakes. Some concessions must be made to the 21st century.
Fleming County's Danny Crawford pulled out all the stops. His specially built wagon — pulled by three mules — sported a stove, beds, and even electric lights.
Crawford brought along his great-grandson Mitchell Barber, 12, who immediately crawled into the back of the wagon to take a nap once the wagons got rolling.
John and Connie Mink of Harrodsburg brought a wagon, a team of mules to pull it, and their three Jack Russell terriers, which they just couldn't leave at home.
Bourbon County's Eddie Sosby has worked with horses all his life. But Wednesday was his first wagon train trip, so he brought along his grandson and granddaughter to share the fun.
Patty Mitchell drove to Columbiana Farm on Wednesday morning just to see the wagons off. Mitchell, who owns a mule and a wagon, used to take part in wagon trains in Indiana and wants to get back into the hobby.
"I really wish I was going today," she said.
Bev Merrill understands. There's nothing like a wagon ride down a quiet country road, she said.
"You see the scenery at a slow pace. You just unplug, unwind and turn off the cellphone," she said. "It's really nice."
Jim Warren: (859) 231-3255.